Second Sniper Trial Due In Va.; Defense Objects

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The prosecutor in Fairfax County, Va., will go forward with a second death-penalty trial for John Allen Muhammad, says the Washington Post. The convicted sniper could make his first court appearance soon, lawyers said. Defense attorneys Jonathan Shapiro and Peter D. Greenspun were appointed to represent Muhammad, 43, in the fatal shooting of FBI analyst Linda Franklin outside a Fairfax Home Depot store. The selection of the same defense team that represented Muhammad in his first trial ended speculation about whether prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr. would prosecute Muhammad in Franklin’s slaying. Last year, he was convicted and sentenced to death in the slaying of Dean H. Meyers at a Prince William County, Va., gas station. It was one of 13 shootings — 10 of them fatal — in the Washington area during a three-week period in October 2002. Lee Boyd Malvo, 19, was convicted of capital murder in Franklin’s slaying and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

“The only way to account for this is blood lust,” Shapiro said of the decision to try Muhammad in Fairfax. “We have lots of issues about whether this prosecution is proper in light of the Prince William prosecution. It’s going to be a huge fight. [Greenspun and I] feel we owe it to John to agree to do this.”

Horan cited the gravity of the shootings as his reason for pushing forward despite criticism that the cost of a second trial would be a waste of taxpayer money. “The magnitude of what was done called for a trial,” Horan said. “You can’t put a value on the human lives that were taken here.” Horan has said a second conviction could serve as “an insurance policy” in case an appeals court overturned the first conviction. He said it would be more efficient to try Muhammad now than in five years, when an appeal — potentially to the U.S. Supreme Court — could set him free.

Said defender Greenspun: “This seems like a terrible waste of taxpayer resources. If [Horan] is doing this for some sort of insurance, then how much confidence does he have in the conviction [by] Prince William?”

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A55674-2004May25.html

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